With bird-flu outbreaks spreading to British turkey farms, now seems like the perfect time to release new workplace safety guidance for flu pandemic preparedness. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration obliged, releasing its "Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic" in February.
OSHA aims to aid employers by categorizing all company operations into four zones, based on risk of exposure during an outbreak, and then providing recommendations for each category for engineering controls, work practices and the use of personal protective equipment.
The report also explains the differences between seasonal, pandemic and avian flu and how an outbreak would be likely to affect a workplace in terms of absenteeism, supply-chain interruption and commercial disruption. Recommendations include how companies can maintain operations during a pandemic by developing a disaster plan that incorporates pandemic preparedness, and by properly educating employees and customers on proper hygiene and social distancing.
Occupations in the highest risk category include health-care and lab workers who could be exposed to specimens of the flu bug. The next category of risk consists of health-care delivery and support staff, medical transporters and mortuary employees exposed to known or suspected pandemic patients.
Workplaces in the medium risk subset are schools, retail operations and other work environments where there is high-frequency, close contact with the general public, co-workers and others. OSHA defines close contact as within six feet.
Office employees and others who have minimal contact with co-workers or the general public make up the lowest risk group.
April 1, 2007
Copyright 2007© LRP Publications